NEW ORLEANS, June 9 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a strict anti-abortion law in Texas that will close all but seven abortion providers in the state.
A three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled to uphold the 2013 Texas law which requires that abortion clinics meet the standards of outpatient surgical centers.
Under the law, HB 2, abortion facilities must include minimum sizes for rooms and doorways, and meet other structural and ventilation system requirements. Doctors must also have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
In response to a lawsuit brought by three abortion clinics, a federal judge in Austin ruled in August that the surgical center regulation is unconstitutional because it would restrict too many women's access to abortion. Amy Hagstrom Miller, head of Whole Women's Health in McAllen, Texas, an abortion provider and a plaintiff in the case, said many women opt for methods that can be used at home if they do not have easy access to a clinic.
Supporters of the surgical center requirement argue it protects women's health.
The Fifth Circuit Court ruled in favor of the Texas law, except where it applies to Whole Women's Health, which is located in the Rio Grande Valley, about 200 miles away from the nearest legal abortion center under the law.
"In plain terms, H.B. 2 and its provisions may be applied throughout Texas, except that Supreme Court precedent requires us to partially uphold the district court's injunction of the [ambulatory surgical center] requirement as applied to the Whole Woman's Health abortion facility in McAllen, Texas, and to uphold the district court's injunction of the admitting privileges requirement as applied to Dr. [Sherwood] Lynn when he is working at the McAllen facility," the panel ruled.
Prior to the passage of HB 2, there were 40 abortion providers in the state, a number that dropped down to 16 in October when the Supreme Court blocked the legislation. With Tuesday's ruling, there are expected to be seven legal abortion providers in the state of Texas in 22 days when the law goes into effect.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, says it intends to appeal the ruling.
"Not since before Roe v. Wade has a law or court decision had the potential to devastate access to reproductive health care on such a sweeping scale," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
"The Supreme Court's prior rulings do not allow for this kind of broadside legislative assault on women's rights and health care. We now look to the justices to stop the sham laws that are shutting clinics down and placing countless women at risk of serious harm."